Cinematography is the art of storytelling through a visual medium based on a predetermined directive like a script or narrative, making use of several elements like film lighting, framing, lens choices, color, etc. Videography, on the other hand, is simply the recording of an event like a birthday or wedding. Cinematographers tend to work on larger productions and are focused on lending a distinct visual language to the film or project they’re working on. The responsibility of taking artistic and narrative decisions rests solely on them.
While videographers do tend to take decisions of their own as well, they do not lead a team of lighting technicians and camera crews. Videographers owing to the smaller scale of their projects handle all the lighting and editing themselves. Their primary objective is to capture all the major moments in a live event, as they unfold in real-time. Unlike a film, there may not always be a chance to rehearse beforehand or shoot something twice.
Let’s dig deeper to understand the difference between cinematography vs videography by understanding the nuances of each role:
Cinematography vs Videography
Differences in projects
Cinematographers are generally associated with major motion pictures and feature films. So what does a cinematographer do, exactly? Their objective is to tell a story convincingly and ensure that audiences feel exactly how the writers intended for them to feel.
Videographers take on projects of a much smaller scale like business conferences, marketing events, family gatherings like anniversaries, birthdays, etc. They may sometimes be hired to shoot wildlife and nature documentaries. In some instances, videographers take on the role of reporters as a part of live coverage for news channels.
Differences in responsibilities
A cinematographer works with the director to make sure that his/her vision is realized to the best of their abilities. They can suggest new ideas and methods to better visualize what the director has on their mind. Their responsibilities include choosing the right type of camera, lenses, camera angles, and techniques to best capture a scene.
In simple words, a cinematographer largely determines the visual style of the film.
Meanwhile, videographers focus on other aspects of production. These include camera operation, sound, lighting, and editing the content after the shoot.
Differences in Film vs Digital Production
The key difference in terms of how they shoot and process content, cinematographers rely on film whereas videographers use digital video cameras. But, this difference could prove to be obsolete in the near future as more and more cinematographers are learning to embrace modern technology. Moreover, both of them can direct their crews and make artistic decisions that could alter the final product.
Differences in Crew Size
This is another major difference between cinematographers and videographers. Cinematographers are typically known to work with a larger crew comprising of one or two assistant cinematographers, a grip, and a dolly operator. But, the size and scale of this crew can vary from one project to another.
On the other hand, videographers take a lone-wolf approach to their workflow. It’s mostly just a single person taking care of the cameras, the lighting, audio set-up, and overall planning. They also might occasionally don the hat of an editor.
But, with the advent of modern technology and the recent rise of indie filmmakers, this distinction isn’t clear-cut as it was a couple of years back.
Cinematographers are hired by film studios to work on feature films. Videographers, on the other hand, are typically self-employed and tasked with capturing a live event like intimate family gatherings, formal business meetings, marketing content, and wildlife documentaries. With respect to crew sizes, cinematographers head a much larger crew consisting of cameramen, sound technicians, and assistants.
Videographers can’t afford that large a crew and tend to work alone, but may employ an editor or an additional camera operator in some cases. They often work on a limited or no budget, sometimes investing their money in hopes of getting paid later. In this aspect, cinematographers work on the production budget and have more resources to play around with.
So, in summary, videographers operate on a small to medium scale and have a more hands-on approach whereas cinematography is always a part of large-scale production with a more or less hands-off approach.
What is Cinematography?
The dictionary defines cinematography as the ‘art of making motion pictures.’ But, that doesn’t encompass the various elements of the art. Cinematography helps to set the tone of a film’s visual narrative with the use of camera and lens choice, aspect ratio, and other visual elements. Good cinematography can leave a lasting impression on the viewer and make them feel like they’re part of the scene on screen.
Also known as the director of photography, a cinematographer is entrusted with several duties and responsibilities while on a film set. S/he must create the right aesthetic to best capture the vision of the director which requires an understanding of image depth, contrast, and contour. An accomplished cinematographer understands the kind of visuals that are in line with what the director is looking for and makes recommendations about the different types of shots that can be used.
They may sometimes be expected to attend the rehearsals with the actors as blocking for a particular scene is bound to evolve with time. This gives a chance to adjust the cameras in response to a single gesture/action to better capture their performances.
But, their work isn’t quite complete when the shooting wraps and the rest of the cast and crew go back to the comforts of their homes. Cinematographers also work along with the editing team to ensure that the film’s look comes out as intended.
What is Videography?
Videography is the act of capturing a moment in time, from beginning to end. It’s purely meant to capture the fundamental moments in an event. Videography has little to no influence over how the event unfolds. However, this discipline still requires one to know all the basic aspects of video production — handling the camera, arranging sound and editing the final footage.
A videographer works on a digital camera as opposed to a cinematographer who typically works on film. This term has only been recently introduced into the lexicon thanks to high-end cameras becoming more affordable. It no longer takes a ton of equipment or manpower to produce a good film.
In fact, a number of acclaimed cinematographers are now transitioning to digital cameras that are more functional and much easier to use.
So, it’s really cinematography that gave birth to videography.
A videographer works with other aspects of the production of camera operation, sounds, processing, and editing of content after shooting. But, both cinematographers and videographers do take artistic decisions that determine the look and feel of the final product.
Due to budget constraints and the compulsion to invest money of their own, they’re mostly relegated to smaller projects. These include single-person-led productions like weddings, corporate videos, live concerts, and other marketing events.
While both cinematographers and videographers use more or less the same tools today, their objectives are a lot different. Cinematographers aim to tell a story and transform words on a script into striking visuals. The aim of videographers, on the other hand, is to cover a live event and recording all the proceedings. If the difference is relatively clear, then why all the fuss?
The problem stems from the fact that a lot of videographers use deceiving titles to create a false sense of hierarchy. This has led organizations to delineate themselves as either cinematographers or videographers, and never both. Hence, the process of choosing between the two becomes easier for a layman.
Essential Reading on Cinematography:
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